Riverdale is built on twists. Without them, the beloved CW soap is merely a bunch of sexed-up teens running around, planning musicals and drinking milkshakes. And, where’s the fun in that? Over the last two seasons we’ve dealt with the big twists (Jason Blossom’s killer), the small twists (Jughead’s dad turning out to be a Southside Serpent) and the head-scratching twists (the Black Hood “resolution”). Tuesday night’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” continued the teen drama’s long parade of melodramatic shockers by revealing the FBI agent who has been terrorizing Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) for the last few weeks, Arthur Adams (John Behlmann), isn’t an FBI agent at all — he is the Lodge family’s favorite right hand man. Everyone, Adams is in the mob.
After I caught my breathe over the legitimately shocking twist, I immediately thought back to Riverdale’s last unexpected turn: a Scooby Doo villain of a person, janitor Joseph Svenson (Cameron McDonald), being tapped as the Black Hood killer. Following the intricate highs of the Adams Is A Capo reveal, it seems unlikely that huge mystery around the Hood could have been solved too easily, especially since a man in a black hood appears in the preview for Riverdale’s next, forebodingly-titled installment, “The Hills Have Eyes.”
The true genius of the Adams twist is the fact viewers truly couldn’t have seen it coming in the best way. The show sets up only two possible, plausible options for Adams’ identity. Either he’s an awful federal agent who would rather bully and stalk a teen Jason Mraz wannabe than do actual police work, or he’s a figment of Archie’s imagination who’s acting as the young man’s conscience as he delves deeper into the darkness of the cosa nostra. Or is it the nuestra cosa considering how proudly Latinx the Lodges are?
Either way, Riverdale takes great pains to make a sensible case for both arguments. Up until “Tell-Tale,” it seems like Adams is obviously a Tyler Durden-type hallucination. Archie is the only person who interacts with him, he always appears the moment Archie arrives at a mob-related moral crisis, and he is an adult man who quadruple texts a literal 16-year-old boy. They do not teach that at Quantico.
Then, “Tell-Tale” flips the script by tossing Adams into the Andrews home and across a table from Fred Andrews (Luke Perry). Considering Fred’s terror over a possible audit from Adams, the federal agent is apparently very real, as are his federal powers. Then, once viewers feel safe with the resolution, the show hits them with Adams' mafioso identity.
Looking back on Adams’ last four episodes, you realize Riverdale was purposefully stoking the real versus imaginary debate fire, without ever directly admitting it, to make the eventual reveal all the more jaw-dropping. It’s the ultimate distraction after Fight Club and Mr. Robot have made the trope seem inevitable for a thriller like the Archie Comics adaptation. Even the twist of who the true mob “boss” is here — Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols)! As opposed to Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos)! — follows the same formula of giving us a convincing assumed ending and then turning everything upside down with a more-than-believable explanation out of left field.
It’s important to note the Adams reveal isn’t just shocking, it actually moves our characters forward. Now, Archie is squarely entrenched in the mob world, something no one would have seen coming at the start of Riverdale. That means something. On top of that, this development flies directly in the face of what Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) actually wants for her boyfriend. As the mob teen explained in last week’s “The Wicked and the Divine,” Archie is supposed to be her light in the darkness. Now, that light has been effectively snuffed out. That means something.
If this is the painstakingly planned way Riverdale unravels a fairly minor mystery like the identity of some random new man in a hat, its handling of a season-spanning, life-altering conundrum like the Black Hood killer seems out of character. Not only did the show very obviously telegraph Svenson was a mega-shady creep — with his weird lair and suspicious photographs — long before he was unmasked as the alleged Black Hood, but it’s not even like he touched a single character’s life beforehand. In fact, we only saw Svenson for two episodes before he was revealed to be a violent criminal mastermind, the likes of whom Riverdale has never seen.
Yet, this supposed massive twist has had no lasting effects on the leading characters or the sleepy titular town in general. On the other hand, when the last major mystery was solved, a.k.a. Jason Blossom’s murder, manors were burned to a crisp, drug empires were uncovered, and people were tossed in jail. When it came to the Black Hood’s resolution, however, Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) merely had a weird encounter with a fireplace. Something doesn’t add up.
As Archie once admitted to “Agent” Adams, he’s not so sure the Black Hood saga is over. With a man sporting one such black hood lurking in a frame of next episode “Hills Have Eyes,” airing March 7, let’s hope Archie is proven right. It’s what Riverdale deserves.
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